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The computer mouse is perhaps the greatest computer user interface tool ever invented! Indeed, the mouse has provided incalculable time savings and efficiency to every computer based task over the past 40 years! However, because the computer mouse is used every time you work from your computer, hand and wrist fatigue is a real issue. In fact, mouse usage does increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury.
To save you from that pain, we've put together several useful tips on proper mouse technique - see below for more!
Positioning Your Mouse
Believe it or not, the position of your mouse in relation to the computer you’re using is incredibly important. It should be kept as close to the keyboard as possible.
If you have to keep stretching to reach your mouse, it’s too far away. It should be within easy reach, and it should never leave the mouse mat that, ideally, should be adjacent to the keyboard of your computer.
Your elbow should always be at a ninety-degree when you use your mouse, although a couple of degrees, either way, isn’t going to hurt you and won’t increase any of the inherent risks that walk hand in hand with using a mouse.
How To Hold Your Mouse
Using a mouse isn’t like taking part in an arm-wrestling contest, you don’t need to use an iron, vice-like grip to move the cursor around your screen. Using a mouse is all about having a light, deft touch and gently clicking the left and right buttons.
If you use too much pressure, you can increase the stress that you place on your wrists and fingers, which will accumulate over time and could, ultimately, lead to muscle, ligament, and joint damage.
One of the best ways to alleviate the potential problems that can arise from having to constantly use a mouse (as well as always trying to keep your wrist as flat and close to the surface of your desk as possible) is adopting a two-handed approach.
Even though most of us aren’t ambidextrous and do have a dominant hand, it is possible to train your other hand to use a mouse just as effectively.
It does take time and practice, but using both hands to use a mouse reduces the impact of any possible damage that prolonged usage can inflict on your dominant hand.
And, using a mouse that’s been designed to work equally well in both your left and right hands can exponentially speed up the process and help you to get to (lighter) grips with a dual handed approach to using it.
It’s All About Control
It’s important to make sure that your mouse never dictates the speed at which you work and that you, and not it, are always in control of the pace at which you’re working or gaming.
You can adjust the cursor and click speed of your mouse in your computer’s settings so that both suit you rather than the engineer who designed it.
Movement And Posture
If someone had been available to teach us how to use a mouse properly, we’d almost certainly have been spared an undue degree of suffering, but they weren’t and as such, we had to learn the hard way.
Another facet of mouse usage that isn’t commonly known, is how important it is to not become reliant on using your desk to rest your wrist and arm on while you’re moving your mouse and clicking its buttons.
If you can, try to ensure that your arm and wrist are elevated while you’re directing your cursor, as this will reduce the amount of stress that you place on the nerves in your wrist and vastly diminish the chances that you will, at some point, develop carpal tunnel syndrome or one of the many work-related conditions associated with it.
Everyone Is Different - Mouse Usage
While there are commonalities in the way that we all use a mouse, how we hold and move our cursor engines can differ greatly.
Whether we’re palm-based users (where the mouse sits predominantly in the palm of your hand), fingertip drivers (which is a more common way for people with large hands to direct a mouse and is based around it being controlled by a person’s fingers instead of their hand) or use the claw position (where the knuckles are raised above the back of the hand), it’s crucial to remember to step away from the keyboard and take a break at regular intervals.
Taking time away from your desk, or the game that you’re playing provides you with an opportunity to stretch your muscles and a chance to gather your thoughts and composure, and it also helps to maintain and focus your level of concentration.
Most importantly though at least as far as how often you use your mouse is concerned, it gives you a chance to rest your hand and the muscles you use to control your mouse.
A regular five-minute break every couple of hours will do wonders for your concentration and reduce the risk of mouse-related issues and injuries.
The Science of Ergonomics
Choosing a mouse to use with your laptop for work or gaming can be incredibly difficult as there’s a nearly endless variety of options that are made to suit every aspect of daily life.
That said, the majority of them have been built to conform to the stereotypical design that relies on them being sleek and flat so that can be easily controlled using the palm of your hand.
While that’s the way that things in the mouse world have almost always been done, it isn’t exactly great for the user as it relies on you having to twist your forearm into an unnatural position, and turning it to lie flat on or just above your desk, to actually use your mouse.
That isn’t good for you or your arm and is one of the most significant causes of repetitive strain-induced injury.
There is, however, a better way. Instead of using a traditional mouse, you could use a vertical mouse instead.
Designed to imitate the joystick controllers of gaming systems and controls that fighter pilots use, they’re ergonomic and have been purposely engineered to reduce and eliminate the possibility of their users succumbing to the strain injuries that plague the workers and gamers who use a more generic model of mouse.
If you want to ensure that you remain injury-free when using a mouse, listen to science, embrace the future and control the vertical instead of the horizontal.